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APS seeing decline in revenue

10/25/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

The Akron Public School District (APS) is borrowing $2.7 million from its insurance fund this year to shore up projected deficits.

Treasurer Jack Pierson made the announcement at the Oct. 22 Board of Education meeting during his presentation of the five-year forecast.

Pierson told the board the district has seen a “big decline” of 8 percent in revenue and also in wages (7.5 percent).

“But deficit spending is killing us,” he added. “The district has been in deficit spending two of the last three years. If Issue No. 61 is not passed, APS will need to reduce expenditures by up to $23 million for school year 2013-14 to balance the budget.”

Issue No. 61 is a 7.9-mill levy that would generate $19.28 million per year and cost the owner of a $75,000 home (the average home value in Akron, according to Pierson) an additional $15 per month. If the issue is approved by voters, collection would begin in 2013.

A report included in the board packet detailed one of the impacts of $22 million in cuts already made in the district to reduce the deficit. According to the report, the average class size in elementary classes in the district has increased this year as a result of continuing budgetary constraints. Officials report the class sizes are: for kindergarten through second grade, 22.8 students per class, which is an increase of 3.4 students; for third and fourth grades, 24.1, an increase of 1.5 students; and for fifth and sixth grades, 23, an increase of 1.3 students.

The overall kindergarten to sixth-grade class size average is 23.22, which is an increase of 2.5 from last year. Student enrollment through fifth grade was up four pupils as compared to last year, but the biggest impact came from a decrease of 47 teachers, according to the report.

Also at the meeting, Ellen McWilliams, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, presented information on the district’s state report card, which was released recently by the Ohio Department of Education.

McWilliams said the district was rated Continuous Improvement once again, meeting five of the 26 indicators, the same as last year. She said other positive results include: the Performance Index score for the district, which measures the overall academic achievement, increased this year once again; the district had “continued improvement” in elementary and middle school reading, “solid increases” in nearly every grade (six out of eight) in mathematics and “significant” gains in five out of six grades in science and social studies. In addition, the district met the Value Added rating.

McWilliams said the district came out at the top of the big eight urban districts in Ohio (including Canton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown and Cleveland) in most categories, and it is now aiming to compete against other Summit County school districts.

“Our goal now is to get to an Effective rating, and we are only a few points away,” said McWilliams.

[For more on the state report cards, see related story on Page 1.]

In other business, the board approved:

• a number of personnel items, including salary adjustments for about 70 members of the professional staff; employment of Bonnie Jasiunas as a substitute school psychologist at the rate of $314 per day for this school year; and limited supplemental contracts for various clubs and sports activities;

• a service agreement for the professional development program “Consultation — Strengthening Relationships to Build Positive School Climate and Increase Student Achievement” for Crouse Community Learning Center (CLC), for a cost not to exceed $27,000;

• a service agreement for a workshop for 26 APS participants for HUMANeX Teacher Interview certification with Ventures for Excellence, for a cost not to exceed $41,600;

• a service agreement for the “Dancing Classrooms Residency” program for fifth- and eighth-grade classrooms, at a cost not to exceed $34,500;

• the purchase of 15 Hewlett Packard Compaq 6300 Pro desktop computers with 20-inch monitors for Findley CLC for $10,065; and

• donations, including $300 from Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens to Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts to enhance the Steel Drum Band’s education experiences.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway in Downtown Akron.

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